Despite ongoing efforts to eradicate sexual harassment and violence at work, a new report has found that women continue to suffer from such abuse. The issue is often far more widespread than reported cases suggest, as many victims remain silent about their experiences.
While most reports of workplace sexual harassment involve women, men are also at risk of abuse. A culture of stigma and silence surrounds the issue, making it difficult to draw attention to the problem
The report was released by the Public Services International Labour Rights Organisation and focuses on violence and safety in Ugandan workplaces. Sexual harassment is defined by the United Nations as an unwelcome sexual behavior such as whistling or inappropriate
The report shows that although Uganda has laws against sexual harassment, they are not being implemented. Additionally, the study reveals that there are no violence and harassment committees in place for female workers to report cases.
Women are frequently harassed by men without penalty, and many employers do not have a system for dealing with complaints.
The research reveals that women are more likely than men to suffer from sexual harassment. However, victims often avoid reporting sexual harassment because of the stigma associated with it, fear of losing their jobs, and the belief that others in a position of power will ignore their complaints.
Speaking to the Nile Post after the release of the report, Dr. Evelyn Aketch, the sub regional secretary at Public Services International(PSI) an organisation that brings together all public sector workers in more than 165 workers, said noted that their research focused on the incidences of violence and harassment in the world work in the sectors of education, health and electricity.
“Most of the employers don’t put in place violence and harassment committees which should be able to address the reporting mechanism and every challenge of harassment and violence. We have also found out that in all the three sectors women suffer more compared to men,” she said.
For instance, in education, she said they realised that many of the lecturers take advantage of the students in terms of awarding marks for sex which is very unfortunate
She called for an integrated effort to end sexual harassment in the workplace. She suggested that the government should increase funding for the Ministry of Gender to monitor the situation and to establish legislation that supports victims of sexual harassment.
“The government should start implementing the laws. It is about how many conventions the country ratifies but the process of implementation to achieve the intended objectives is why we ratify these conventions,” she said.
Prof Consolata Kabonesa, an associate professor at Makerere University expressed the need for the government to implement ratified convention and other laws on occupational safety and health at work places.
“In education sector lectures harass students and students harass lecturers but it is not common. We have bosses harassing their subordinates and feme teachers are harassed by male students,” she said.
She called for the increase of the budget for the ministry of Gender to make sure that they actually go down to the ground to ensure that they monitor what is within work places and monitor the implementation of the law.
Arinaitwe Rwakajara, Workers MP, asked the institutions to enforce the laws as a way of fighting this vice at work places.
Gender activist Victoria Nanteza Kakooza said that the women and girls in the lower jobs with less power with no say are most prone to being harassed by men.
Unfortunately, she said the victims fear to report because they would lose their jobs but also they think that their fellows will not take in a good will.